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Episode 13
Artist Mona Kuhn

  • 2 min read

Episode Description

01:02 - A conversation with photographer Mona Kuhn. Kuhn is an internationally recognized art photographer known for her sublime study of the human form. Her work can be found in collections such as LACMA, the Hammer and the Getty, where she serves as an independent scholar. Our discussion touches on a number of topics around her past, her motivations and her methodology.

49:44 - The week’s top art headlines.

Transcript

Craig: [00:00:10] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. This week, we spend the hour in conversation with photographer Mona Kuhn. Kuhn is an internationally recognized art photographer known for her sublime study of the human form. Her work can be found in collections such as LACMA, The Hammer and the Getty, where she serves as an independent scholar. Our conversation touches on a number of topics around her, past her motivations and her methodology. At the end of the episode, I'll be taking a look at some of the week's top art headlines. But first up, seeing someone for who they really are. With Mona Kuhn.

Craig: [00:01:01] Mona Kuhn, thank you for joining me today on the podcast to talk about your work and your vision. A lot of times whenever I'm talking to artists, I like for the artist to be able to introduce themselves with a hypothetical, which is if you're at a dinner party and someone has never seen your work, how do you describe to to the unknowing audience what your work consists of and what it looks like?

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Mona: [00:01:27] Well, you know, I think that's one of the hardest questions, because whenever you do, news is hard to describe your work as such because there's such a preconceived idea of that. So someone asking me that question on a dinner party, I usually I usually go around it. I just usually say, Hi, my name is Mona Kuhn. I'm a fine art photographer. And then they might ask, what? What kind of work do you do? And then I just usually try to say people or figurative.

Craig: [00:01:58] One of my earlier podcast guests was an author named Jennifer Higgie, and she has a book about female self portraiture, and a lot of what she talks about is the male gaze versus the female gaze. Right? And maybe you could talk to how, yes, you're photographing nudes, but how maybe your nudes don't necessarily look like the nudes of a photographer that may be stimulated by his male gaze? How do your photographs differ?

Mona: [00:02:32] Well, when I got into the arts in general, I got into the arts because I liked the idea of timeless. I remember being really young, like in my teenage years, and I grew up in Brazil. My mother was very social, so she would, you know, she wouldn't work, but she would. She was very active in doing a lot of social things and and when I was a teenager, she would invite me to come with her and I actually didn't want it. I was more of a shy teenager and I wanted to be by myself, and I would often ask her if she could just drop me off by a museum and come pick me up four hours later and in being at the museum. At the time, this is in the 80s, it was very empty and in being empty, I would have this very kind of quiet and calm relationship with the art that was displayed. And every once in a while, I would have this what I like to call it a mini levitation. And to me, as a teenager, I was like, Why is it that? Why is it that I feel a pull towards this work and not to the other one? And what is this mystery? So I realized that there is something that is still communicating from someone that did a painting, let's just say, 300 years ago. And then this young person in front of it that I barely knew anything about art history or too much.

Mona: [00:04:00] I was just a teenager, yet I was able to feel it. So my first introduction to the art was about crossing this element of time when I got into photography. I realized that it's a fast medium. I like that. I got into photography in my 20s. I I felt at the time that I wasted a little bit of time. I didn't start studying art in high school, so I felt that I was already too old to jump into it. So I wanted to jump into it quick and fast, and photography was quick and fast. But at the same time, I had the reason I fell in love with the art was because of the element of time or timeless. So I wanted to bring that to my photography, and I wanted to somehow stop time, right? Because when I first got into photography, it was about fashion or it was National Geographic. It was the magazines, and it was everything that, you know, within a month is gone. Because another issue is in the newsstand. So I ended up. Understanding the what I wanted to photograph was the nude because of my first fascination with the element of time and the new to me was a way of bringing it all together and stopping time. And it was a way for me not to have differences between people like there is no status symbols.

Mona: [00:05:29] There is. It's very egalitarian, like there is no you cannot really tell. It's like it's the human being is the presence. And maybe that image could have been taken 10 or 20 years before or after. There's no. In my work, the way I do it, there's no element of time in it. Now that being said, I was always interested in the human, not only the human that makes art, but also the human in front of me collaborating with me. So nowadays, fast-forward to your question, people. It seems to be a catch sentence now to talk about the male or the female gave to me. That doesn't matter. I happen to be inside of my body. I am a woman, so I naturally have a female gaze. I cannot even tell you what a male gaze is because I'm not inside of a man's body, so I can tell you that I can tell you just my own personal experience. I look and respect the person in front of me as a human, and I assume, but I cannot tell for sure. I assume that I'm that all of my fashion related to the art, which was a more quiet relationship with it, carries on into how I work and collaborate with the people. But that if you want to call that a female gaze or not, I'm not sure that you're into.

Craig: [00:06:58] Well, I think, you know, when I use the term female gaze, I think I'm coming at it from a perspective that your your work is not overtly sexual. Right? Your your subjects are nude, which I understand as the timelessness. There aren't those context clues to tell us when this image was captured, but your subjects. I don't think anyone feels like your subjects are being exploited. It's almost like we are witnessing you trying to make a connection with your subject. Right? That there's a personal something personal there.

Mona: [00:07:34] Well, I I do. I do think that my, you know, I am a lot more comfortable representing the nude as more minimal, more silent. The people in my work are maybe more pensive, and at times I even dare to say a little bit more monastic where it is about the simplicity and our fairness. And in in that I photograph, I am also like a bit of a minimal person on my way, way of life, and I've been more frugal as a person as well. So I think that I photograph people with the same quiet and pensive and introspective elements that I have been carrying on with me for quite some time. You know, you have females that are very loud and you have females that are very quiet and they're both female. So I think my gaze is more quiet. I like to say my, my, my gaze. And yes, I do admit I do gaze. I do look at people. I do look, I am a photographer. I am looking at everything in the world. I'm looking at a bus shelter the same way that I would be looking at someone crossing the street. So but I think that my when it comes to conversation of Gaisie, I would just say the mind is more quiet.

Craig: [00:09:07] Is any part of that influenced by your time with the naturalist community in France? Do you feel like that experience with them help?

Mona: [00:09:18] Yeah. Well, I I think my relationship to just being naked really started a lot earlier than than this place that I ended up going to in France. My I was born in Brazil. My parents, both of them are German and on the summer, in the wintertime in Brazil, which is June-July. Once in a while, once every two years or so, I would go to Germany to visit my grandparents and we would spend, I don't know, 15 days with them, and my parents would then travel around or see their own friends, and we would stay with my sister and I would stay with my grandparents. And in Germany, usually the weather is, even though it's summer is continues to be very gray. And we would stay with them and we would do coloring or whatever it is. And then once in a while, a little bit of sun would pick out and they, both of my grandparents would run each of the garden, take off all of their clothes, get the closest newspaper that they had and and lounge out in the ocean, lounge into the garden, look back into the house and say, Mona Mona, come out in the sun, invite them and take off your clothes. So to me, munity started with me and my grandparents, and that idea that it is healthy or that idea that they that it is so little that they get that when they do that, they want to have it exposed all over the body.

Mona: [00:10:55] Uh, so that was my introduction to the idea of nudity, which was a very familiar, very in your backyard type of thing, and it also had this idea that they are older than me. So I'm already comfortable with the body in itself, right with with all of the cycles of life. And then when I started my studies and when I realized that the nude to me is something that over and over again I feel very comfortable with, I feel very at ease with. I also remember when I went first, I went to a high state, so then I went. Then I took a few classes at the Art Institute in San Francisco, and I remember being very frustrated photographing someone at the studio. And I remember thinking, it's really I remember thinking that that's not really what it was. I don't want someone is very unnatural for someone to come to the studio and disrobe in front of the photographer and then pose in front of a camera. And the photographer is all dressed and the person is disrobed and you have this kind of, you know, particular situation there. And I felt always a little bit not as legitimate as I would like it to be. I really wanted to go back to the the backyard of my grandparents. And in the 90s mid 90s, I was really lucky to be introduced to a naturist community in France, which is one of the oldest ones.

Mona: [00:12:30] So it's very family based. And when I entered the place for the first time, I saw a lot of older people in the nude that come all the time, and it was exactly what I in a way was craving. But at the time, I wasn't really conscious of it and I felt at home right away. And then the first person that I met there, his grandmother. Uh, had a little it started going to the place in the 50s, and he was the third generation in his family to be going, so he invited me the next day to have breakfast with him and his grandma. So there I am for the first time with a person that is about my age and the grandma both are naked. I wasn't completely naked at the time because I was still getting used to the place, but I was already realizing that I love it and that I feel very much at home. So to me, being introduced to the place has been a wonderful thing because it gave me the opportunity to have a more authentic relationship to the work itself where I'm not trying to recreate it in a studio, but. But it's part of my life and it has become part of my life. So it's like life and art coming together instead of trying to do art in the studio type of thing.

Craig: [00:13:49] So it sounds like you really want to get the subjects of your of your work to a place where they're comfortable being in I think what you've called a suit of skin that feeling like they are clothed in their own skin, and at that moment of comfort, you can then open up a dialog about capturing what's timeless in front of you.

Mona: [00:14:10] Right? I think that I think, you know, the other thing that is interesting and not a lot of people know this is that usually photographers are always photographing. And I like to think that between me and the subjects, I like to think that we're friends. And there were people like, I'm interested in them and I'm interested in their lives. I'm interested. What happened to their parents or the grandparents or or the partners that they might have? Or are they graduating or are they starting to work or like, I mean, 80 percent of what goes on between them and me is about life. And I think 20 percent of the time that we spent together, I might pick up the camera or we might have an idea together and we'll start photographing. So I'd like to think that they would be friends, that our friendship is strong enough, that we would be friends with or without the camera. So that's a little bit different, so what happened is we already have a foundation of trust, a foundation of knowing each other. So by the time we photograph in the nude I. Have many conversations with them where they don't necessarily feel naked anymore. Like, they feel confident and comfortable in their skin. They feel that it is they feel secure. They also know that I will. Communicate to them the images that I thought worked out for me, I always show to my collaborators, I always show to them. All the images, if there is anything that they really feel shouldn't be used, they are more than welcome to tell me.

Mona: [00:15:57] Very rarely there is a moment like that, but I like to photograph all of. I like to show them all of the photographs because that way I'm like, creatively naked for them, right? So it's equal terms. I show the moment that I missed that I made a mistake. Maybe they were posing so beautifully and I messed up on the exposure. And then I have to say I'm sorry. Right? So I showed the moments that I failed. And I'm also human, and I'm just, that's all we are. Both of, you know, both of us. If I'm photographing someone. So I think that that's a very honest relationship that we have with each other. They also know that I will not show anything that maybe, maybe it was, you know, there's when you're working with with someone, you know, if you're photographing an object, you can do different angles and you go around it and that's what you photograph. But when you're photographing a person is not just the angle, the composition you're dealing with, the psychology of the moment. And I think I'm really, really interested on that psychology as well. That's very much part of, I think, what the mystery of the human being is very much what keeps me wanting to go back over and over and to create and to see if we can create something amazing again. I always think that my my my best image is the last one that I will ever be able to accomplish.

Craig: [00:17:20] You know, I hear you saying that you and your subjects are collaborators, and it sounds like you're relying on them to help you with, like, a particular emotive state. I know that you you also do commercial work and there are portraits that you're commissioned to do of of particular people. Is that part of your process there? Are you coming with beforehand with with an idea on how you want to shoot a particular person for these commercial projects? Or is it once again getting to know them opening a dialog, trying to kind of get to some part of who they are or who they want to project themselves as being so on?

Mona: [00:18:03] The personal work is very much about. A certain state of mind, right, is very much about the subject, and I we we try to enter, so to speak, a little bit of a parallel reality, or sometimes we use that expression that we're zoning into our creative world, right? You're zoning in or zoning out or something. So I think that my main concern why we're having conversations and talking and so on is to use parts of parts of the life that we're sharing with each other into images that have some metaphor that might be more than just a portrait of the person on the personal work, right where someone comes into the gallery and they might. Project themselves e to a portrait of someone else, and they might remember something about themselves that is reflected on this image of someone else. So I think when I'm doing the personal work, I'm really. A mean not that I always get it right, but I'm really trying to aim an image that as much as it is an image of someone that I know, that that person that that personality is opened up into metaphors where other people could project themselves into it when it comes to the commercial work. Many times what happened is that maybe our directors have are familiar with my work and they might say, Hey, I really like what you did there. But now, for example, for example, like a fashion brand like Bottega Veneta or Dior, they say, We like what you do on your personal work, but now can you do this with our clothes? And can we recreate some of that? And in that case, it's a whole other side of me.

Mona: [00:20:01] I'm not trying to make to create my personal metaphors because they have in their forefront of their thoughts. They need they they have a list of things that they need. The clothes need to be looking a certain way. Like, there's a there's a thousand requirements that come from the from like the account managers of on ad agencies or so or from the people dealing with with if it's like clothes or if it's jewelry or whatever it is, they have a ton of requirements that need to be fulfilled for them. So that's a commercial work. Then I get paid to get that for them and to deliver that to them and and to really make sure that all of those puzzle pieces that they need and my style come together. So in that sense, I think it's less. Uh, it's less of an internal creativity, is more of a external creativity, right? I'm solving problems for a client. It's different than on the commercial work I am. I'm going inside of my soul. I'm having a relationship with my soul, with my thoughts, with other people's ideas and how they want to project each other. And we really have a more really like a engage on more metaphysical conversations.

Craig: [00:21:28] So where where do you find your subjects? I mean, like I know, like your your series Bordeaux, that that was kind of one community and it was the people in that community, if I remember right. But other series, are you casting models or are these people it comes across that you're establishing some sort of rapport with these folks. So it's it's almost like. And many of your subjects look like real people, right versus versus somebody ordered out of a catalog. Right,

Mona: [00:22:00] Right.So I think that's why I've been it's hard for me to say the easiest thing is to call them the models from a photographer, but they're not models. That's why I keep saying collaborators. A lot of them don't. A lot of them enjoy that idea of being photographed, but they are. They haven't been photographed by professional photographers. There's a lot of people that are creative, maybe creatively minded, and want to engage in a creative project and understand my visual vocabulary, but they don't necessarily want to be modeling. I think that your initial. Question about where do I find them, it depends on the series I have. When at the very beginning, when I was very active photographing at this Matrice community in France, I was able to have relationships with people there and then photograph them, and they would refer me to someone else because they realize it was they felt safe and and there was an accountability, and I would show them the work and they they knew that the process could be trusted. But I also have done work at here in the U.S. in the Mojave Desert, two different series at different moments. And for those I, it was a little. More, I had to reach out more to to to people that wanted to engage, so I reached out. A lot of it is word of mouth because I do want to have people that are not professional models. The thing the the difference is a professional model will give the same expression to 10 different photographers.

Mona: [00:23:50] And that's great if you're under pressure and when you have a commercial job is great because that professional model knows exactly how the best expressions and and positioning work and then makes the job of the photographer much easier. But not my personal work. I really want. I really prefer people that have not been necessarily there, photographed because there's a certain. There's a certain authenticity there that that's what I think is important and it's part of the work that it doesn't. There is a certain element of being unique. Or at least a moment of being unique is not is not, you know, when they when they're looking towards the lens, they're not looking towards the lens, all knowing how to look at the lens. And that to me, that feels a lot more legitimate. Um, the work, the work that I did in Bordeaux, the Bordeaux series that you mentioned their work was I wanted to photograph a wider cross-section of the of of the French. Population, so to speak, and I photographed in Bordeaux, in Bordeaux. You have the University of Bordeaux. So I was able to reach out to French, but Muslim, French and Algerian, French and and younger or older. So there was a there was a bit more of a range there that I wanted to encompass. So I think that was a little bit more how I got each of the series.

Craig: [00:25:37] I feel like I've heard you talk before about one of your earlier aha moments as as a photography student. Was this realization about it really all kind of boiling down to shadows? But, you know, when I look at your work, you know, your use of contrast is so subtle. I mean, I think a lot of photographers in this generation, especially maybe people that are new to photography, are really drawn to high contrast, high saturation. But there's something about your subtle use of value that your your, you know, the word quiet keeps coming up, but you're used to your palette. It can be differentiated from other photographers, just in my mind based on that subtle use of value, is that am I? Am I right or wrong there?

Mona: [00:26:36] Oh, you're absolutely right. And I do appreciate that you see it, that you perceive it. Um, because I think it was intended to be perceived either knowingly or or subconsciously. But the let me just take a step back when I talk about the shadow and my relationship to photography is really it's a different take. I think what you're referring to is when I mentioned my realization that I think I was one of my first classes printing in the in the darkroom, or so I went outside with the print to show to the teacher because you want to see sometimes with the daylight. And and I ask always, is this good or not good? And then the teacher at the time mentioned probably that I have to redo it. But in any case, at the moment, when the person when the teacher went back into the into the darkroom and I was standing there for the first time, I realized that I am a being and which, you know, it goes to everyone that you are a being and that you cast a shadow. And that that shadow will always be there. And while you are alive and and their realization is more of an existential realization, right? And the fact that is not just that I is not just that I am a human being because my brain is telling me or allowing me to make the conclusion. But but if nothing else, the fact that I have a shadow proves the point in a way that I do exist. Physically there.

Mona: [00:28:22] So that, to me, was more of a concentration of saying, I'm really, really interested on the human, on the figure, but but also on our presence, what are we doing during the lifetime that we are on planet Earth? I mean, I know it kind of gets a little esoteric, but it's kind of true. I do think about those things. No other planet out there. We would be able to live, right? So this is the only planet in the entire solar system, possibly our galaxy where there is that is so beautiful that it's so conducive for me to just stand there and look at my shadow. And so, so that to me is is a huge existential seed of my work. But then but then what was the second part of your question? Oh, oh, oh yeah. So so then the values and the contrast in my work itself that I don't bring so much right away. I don't like the high contrast. I do like a lot of nuances. I like darker tonalities at times because he helps. It helps me hide the nude in a way so it's not so overt or gratuitous presented to the to the in the image. So I have used shadow to help disguise a bit or make it more mysterious. But but with a lot of nuance and with a lot of a little softer palette, it's true. One of the first things that I do when when I am photographing is. To lower the contrast, that's the first thing I do.

Craig: [00:30:05] You know, I earlier in our conversation you talked about how one of the things that attracted you to photography was how it's it's quick. But taking the image is quick. That doesn't mean that editing is a quick process, right? So can can you tell me a little bit about what the process and maybe mentally what you go through on the back end of these shoots to really figure out what's working and what isn't?

Mona: [00:30:37] Yes. So I did fall in love with photography because it's fast and you, you have that. I think with most of the photographers, you have the moment that is very much the same to all of us where you're in the darkroom and you see that image coming out from the developer on the on the developing tree. And it's just like develops in front of you and suddenly it's all there and you just cannot believe it happened, right? It is fast in the sense that for me to paint that image, it would take me at least two weeks. And in the darkroom, the image just popped up like that on the on the developing tree. So that part of photography is very exciting because then you would go back over and over again and try different things. And the whole the whole nature of photography is a fast medium. But inside the fast medium, you have a whole range of things that happen. Like, for example, it takes I get inspired by spending time with people and that is not fast. The clicking of the shutter when I do know what to do, is fast. And then the editing is very slow again. So the editing part it takes me if I'm working on a series and let's just say I did a lot of a photograph for a whole month and I'm looking at all these images.

Mona: [00:32:01] It takes me then six to eight months for me to decide. What images I think are working out best for what I'm trying to say, because there is a lot of things, because photography is so immediate. It's very, very hard for me to separate at first an image that is a great image of someone I care about versus an image that has metaphorical potential and that I would like to be part of my visual vocabulary. So those two things are it's hard for me when I just come back from the photo shoot. I just came back from seeing people that I care about. So I, like all of the images, is impossible for me to choose one. So I do need a little bit of time to separate myself from the people that I just photographed and to have a little bit more of a a cold decision on what is the image that is in line with what I'm trying to say. Many times I because I show all the images to the people I photograph. Sometimes they choose. I always give them prints, and sometimes they choose the image that they might look the best. Or probably many times they like an image that is the standard sexy. And they think that maybe the light made them look so amazing on that one and the other one looks hot or whatever it is.

Mona: [00:33:31] And that is good for them, and I give them those prints. But then for me, I end up choosing the quiet ones, and it's really funny because I always I also only get the permission. I only ask them for permission to use the work after they have seen the proofs. So at the very end, they choose some for them, I choose maybe one or two for me and I say so at the very end, I say, would you give me permission to actually use this image in a gallery exhibitions or or a book? And they're like, Really, that one is so quiet and calm. And I said, exactly that is the one that to me makes more sense. So it's really interesting. So you go through all this variation and then so then the editing is very, very slow. But once I do have the, you know, the editing all together, not just the individual shoots, but how the whole series, how it comes together, almost as if it would be a novel, right? So the individual images suddenly become sentences and becomes paragraphs, and then suddenly you feel that it is complete. Then then it takes time as well, showing that the galleries are showing that to the publishers. So it kind of has a it kind of goes through a whole myriad of levels of speed through the process.

Craig: [00:35:03] So is that a process that you do mainly alone? I mean, is that six to eight months? Is that really like this quiet, meditative time for you? Or do you have another set of eyes that you're bouncing things off of?

Mona: [00:35:18] Yeah. So first of what I do, I have in my in my studio, I don't really have a studio because it's the I photograph outside. I'd like to be out on location, but in my workspace, so to speak. I put all of the images I have them all printed on small prints. Nowadays, photography, you can do the editing digitally on your monitor. But when you do that on the monitor, in your computer, you, you may be able to see five five to 10 images at a time. I like to see 500 at a time. So I actually ask the lab to make small prints, and I put them on a on a cork board all over and I see them every day and I cannot be every day just thinking about that, right? Because we, you know, everyone's reality is different. I have a thousand other things and I work on multiple projects. I have a family. The phone is ringing. The galleries need something. So. So there's all these things happening. But in the background, I have all of those images there, and every time I pass by or every day in the morning that I arrive, I take a look at it once again and I then take down images that I think were really interesting when I first looked at it. But the magic is gone within a short amount of time. So it feels like that they were some images, you think it's a total winner and it's amazing, but after a month, you're like, Okay, I'm kind of tired of looking at it.

Mona: [00:37:01] It has a a short, short lived relationship to that image. And then some other images that I was completely ignoring did not even really pay attention. Then they suddenly become they suddenly start showing up more in that crazy mess on the wall. So I do the editing by putting all of it up, and then I just take, you know, one to five images down a day. And then eventually. You start seeing you start rearranging them, right, because eventually you start having empty, empty areas in between them and so you start, rearrange and start with those that have survived, so to speak. I start putting them next to each other and see if I can actually create sentences. Because they all come from different photoshoots. But then I see how do they work with each other next to each other? What else does he communicate? Invariably when you put images next to each other, if I'm thinking, for example, a book sequencing, right? So when I'm thinking about a sequencing. A lot of times there's a lot of the I think our brain, even if we don't want to between one image and another, you will add information in between. So I tried to understand what is it that it's communicating that someone else could could have the same conclusion that I had when I saw those next to each other. See, that's when it becomes that's when it starts becoming a little bit more magic, and it's not so much just the work of a 2-D flat image, but it's also involves the person looking for it.

Craig: [00:38:56] Well, I think you and I both come from a generation where bands used to make albums instead of singles. Right. 

Mona: [00:39:06] Right. Well, exactly exactly. Now, nowadays we have a problem, right? Because nowadays, like if you go with the albums nowadays I I hear in my workspace, I listen to Spotify. So with Spotify, it's it's already already made whatever list that it's some kind of mood or some kind of playlist that he puts together. I don't even remember the name of the artist. Right. Like so crazy, because in the past, I would have my LP that I love, that I would like clean before I put on the on the player like there was a whole proceed. There was a whole procedure and you know, exactly you have the side A, the side B. And there was an intention of the artist. There was the first, second and third track. There was a rhythm between the tracks. Right? It would not put the best song on the first one you would put on on the third track. So I think that you're right to say that that's a different generation, because I think that I still like that idea of creating a body of work. And I like that idea of having a certain sequencing from beginning to the end. And I, I do leave room for interpretation because I think that that in a way adds an element of time where it lives longer because there is room for to be interpreted. But I like I like that it's a complete body of work, just a chop chop here and there.

Craig: [00:40:43] So I understand that you are getting an award soon from the Los Angeles Center of Photography, the Stiglitz Award. Congratulations is in order there, and I think there's there's a gala coming up soon honoring you, right? And so. So congratulations. You know, and I know that you you recently had the mid-career retrospective works. I think we're roughly the same age and that it feels way too young for people to be using the word retrospective.

Mona: [00:41:15] Yeah, yeah. I totally agree with you. I don't know how that happened.

Craig: [00:41:20] So but I, you know, I've I've really enjoyed our conversation today, and you I feel like you're the type of person that is just I can imagine what it's like being on a shoot with you because you you're you're so affable and open. And you know, I really appreciate you being willing to take time to talk about your process and your work today. And if folks wanted to to keep an eye on your work and upcoming, you know what? How can people keep track of you right now? Is the website the best?

Mona: [00:41:58] So I think the the the easiest way I think nowadays I do have a website with a lot of information and a little bit more deeper information on the website, but I have to tell you that I have been using Instagram for the for the things that are happening at the moment this week or next week. And then it turns out that if you scroll down, you have a whole journal of what's going on, which I find to be not just on my Instagram, but when I'm looking at other artists or whatever it is that I'm researching. I find that to be really interesting because it's more immediate and you get to feel almost closer to the person that you want to understand. You know that you want to know what's going on in their life. So I would say if people want to see what's happening, the Instagram, it's hashtag monochrome studio, that one is a good way to follow. You know, you addressed an interesting. A subject that I'm in my fifth, I just turned into the 50s and it is too early to do a retrospective when the publisher turns on, Hudson came to me and he said, Oh, you should do a retrospective. I said, there is no way that I'm going to be doing a retrospective right now. And then he said, Well, would you do it if we would think slightly differently about it? And I said, What is this? Slightly differently? And he said, Well, what about your very prolific? You like what you do? You do a lot.

Mona: [00:43:35] Why don't you wrap up? Maybe the the the first the first segment of your life? Why don't you do a compilation of what you have done so far? And I said, Well, that's a good thing. It it's nice that the work has been done. It has been published as monographs by Dido and then Thames and Hudson did the retrospective book. The interesting thing about the retrospective or the mid-career compilation or so? The interesting thing about it is that most of the times you would imagine that you know, an artist go back into the archives and was a pottery of things like repackage the previous work, and that's exactly what I didn't want to happen. And in a way, when the pandemic hit in March 2020, it was at the very beginning when I was just starting to work on this book. And it was interesting for me to see that I had a lot more time to look at my work. I had a lot more time to actually make decisions about things that I wanted to publish in the past that didn't get to be included on the first book about that series.

Mona: [00:44:47] So it gave it gave me a chance to revisit the work and and. In a way. I take out the sequence of the previous work and in a way, rethink and re sequence it. So I was able to really add a lot there and then working with the writers was also very interesting. A lot of times everyone is so busy they write a text and you're grateful for it, but you didn't have much time to really connect with the writer. And during the pandemic, I had one of the nicest conversations with all of the writers that contributed to the book. So I think that I was lucky to be able to do a book that is that has to be there, has to have depth to be interesting. I was somehow able to do it during the pandemic, so that was very lucky. I have to say that during the pandemic, of course, like everyone else, I always thought that the phone is going to ring and the publisher is going to say that the project is canceled. So you go through these moments, of course. But but you know, you try to ignore those kind of calls. But the but the the Stieglitz Awards, I'm very, very honored and and I think when I was talking to Julia Deans at the Los Angeles Center of Photography, one of the things I mentioned to her said, Julia, I'm too young for this.

Mona: [00:46:21] You have so many amazing people. Are you sure you're not making a mistake giving this to me? I just asked her. And then she said, Mona, absolutely not. Is not just about the age of a person, but it's really. And everything that they have accomplished. But it's really about someone that is engaged with the community and giving back to the community. And we think you're a really good example of that. Like I did. I'm very interested in people. So it's not just. About what I'm doing and how I bring them into my work. But in all elements of my life, I want to go to studio visits and look at other artist works. I I'm excited about that. You know, so there was a moment there were some years that I was to read bringing bringing other artists work into billboards in Los Angeles. So and it was really exciting for me to engage with the with the art scene in L.A. and to see, like you mentioned, how do you how do you find out what Mona Kuhn is doing? And I was trying to find out what everyone else is doing.

Craig: [00:47:29] So is curation something that you think you might want to do more of?

Mona: [00:47:33] I had a chance. I always liked. I always like the art of the broader idea of the art. And I really like to celebrate anyone's creativity. I think that creativity is something I consider that to be something fragile. I think that a lot of times you might be discouraged or pushed over or whatever it is. So I like to celebrate everyone's attempt with their own creativity. And and I think when people are curating from what I understand by talking to friends of mine that are curator, they're really there to foster that, to foster that in the artist. So I like that eventually it would be nice. But then again, I'm not going to have a Ph.D. in art history now. Yeah. So it wouldn't be an official route like that. But I have had the chance here and there to to do a little bit like the Billboard project in Los Angeles with 45 different billboards all over L.A. or I did some gallery exhibitions in New York one or two times, bringing together 30 different artists from different countries. So but those those moments are rare, but when they do come up, I do engage right away because I enjoy that.

Craig: [00:48:59] Well, again, I really appreciate your time. I know you described the the hustle and bustle of your day, and I'm, you know, I'm appreciative that you're willing to to carve out some time to have this discussion. I just want to pass on my congratulations to you on this award and in your mid-career best of album that you've compiled. So well,

Mona: [00:49:24] I I I'm the one lucky of having your attention.

Craig: [00:49:28] Well, you know, I again, I really appreciate it...

Craig: [00:49:38] And now the news

Craig: [00:49:44] The Mexican government is working to put a halt to an upcoming cell of pre-Columbian artifacts in Germany. More than 70 artifacts are scheduled for auction this week by Munich based art dealer Gerhard Hirsch. Nok Folger. Mexican Secretary of Culture Alejandro Frausto sent a letter to the art dealer this week, imploring a stop to the cell and a return of the works in question. In her letter, Secretary Frausto explains that the National Institute of Archeology and History had deemed the pieces national and cultural treasures that belong to the people of Mexico. The letter also referenced a nineteen thirty four Mexican law, which prohibits the export of Mexican objects of archeological importance and emphasize the government's intent to recover any cultural treasures that come up for auction around the world. The culture secretary also called on Mexico's attorney general and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get involved in just this week. The Mexican ambassador to Germany personally visited the art dealer in hopes of putting a stop to the sale. Well, these tactics work to stop a similar sell earlier this month in Rome. But to this point, the German art dealer has no plans to back down in the midst of the ongoing debate of how museums should be able to D.S. works to help cover their costs. It was announced this week that New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is selling more than two hundred photographs and prints from its collection to make up for a budget shortfall, resulting from the decreased attendance and giving during the global COVID crisis. The works will be spread out across three different cells at Christie's, the first of which is taking place later this week. The specific pieces include a large number of Civil War photographs, as well as works by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Stella.

Craig: [00:51:43] The multiple cells are expected to bring in up to one point four million dollars. As we've discussed here before, deaccessioning is a hot button issue in the museum world and one that's frowned upon, if not done conscientiously. Well met director Max Holland assured the press this week that the museum is being very careful with the process and only chose works that are duplicates of works in the museum's collection. At the center of determining what's right and wrong with the transaction is the Association of Art Museum Directors. Under normal circumstances, their policies would forbid such a sale to raise funds to cover costs. The association typically only deems deaccessioning viable if selling lesser works to reinvest in acquiring greater works. However, the pandemic has created an opportunity. The NEA IMD is allowing members to tastefully and thoughtfully sell works to help cover costs during this unprecedented time. The policy change is in place until April of twenty twenty two. But as we have all grown accustomed to during these days, dates and details are subject to change. That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rates show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. And click on the podcast tab if you'd like to reach out to me.

Craig: [00:53:37] You can email me at Craig at Canvia Art. Thanks for listening.

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